Bird flies 8,000 miles every year to be with handicapped mate

A Fifteen Year Love Story For Two Storks Klepetan And Malena

For nearly twenty years, a male stork has been flying 8,000 miles to be with his handicapped mate.

At the end of every August the male stork named Klepetan, migrates south from Brodski Varos in Croatia to the warmer climes of South Africa. Unfortunately for his female partner, Malena, she is unable to join him through the autumn and winter months after being injured by hunters and losing the power of flight.

However, come March, Klepetan returns from the warmth to once reunite with his mate and help raise their young.

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Stork couple in Croatia
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Stork couple in Croatia
BRODSKI VAROS, CROATIA - JUNE 20: Malena keeps an eye on her stork chicks on June 20, 2016 in Brodski Varos, Croatia. Stjepan Voki has been taking care of Malena for 22 years, after a Italian hunter broke her wing and she hasn't flown since. Storks Malena and Klepetan have remained a couple for over 20 years, each spring Klepetan migrates 13,000 kilometers alone to be with Malena. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)
A photo taken on April 9, 2018 shows white stork Malena -- Little One in Croatian -- standing in the nest awaiting her male Kleptan, in the village of Brodska Varos in eastern Croatia. The male returned from its winter home in South Africa, thousands of kilometers away, to Malena for the 16th year in a row. Malena the stork was adopted by Stjepan Vokic, a retired primary school caretaker, after hunters broke her wing 25 years ago. / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Stjepan Vokic, a retired Croatian primary school caretaker, pets Malena, a white stork he had adopted in 1993 after he found it at a nearby pond with a broken wing, shot by hunters. / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on April 9, 2018 shows white stork Malena, whose name means Little One in Croatian, walking in a meadow in the village of Brodska Varos in eastern Croatia. Malena the stork was adopted by Stjepan Vokic, a retired primary school caretaker, after hunters broke her wing 25 years ago. / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on April 9, 2018 shows white stork Malena, whose name means Little One in Croatian, walking in a meadow in the village of Brodska Varos in eastern Croatia, as Klepetan, the male, watches from their gigantic nest. The stork was adopted by Stjepan Vokic, a retired primary school caretaker, after hunters broke its wing 25 years ago. / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken on 9th April shows Stjepan Vokic, a retired primary school caretaker, holds Malena, a white stork he had adopted in 1993 after he found it at a nearby pond with a broken wing, shot by hunters, on April 9, 2018 in the village of Brodska Varos in eastern Croatia. / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired Croatian primary school caretaker Stjepan Vokic walks on April 9, 2018 alongside Malena, a white stork he had adopted in 1993 after he found it at a nearby pond with a broken wing, shot by hunters. / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Stjepan Vokic, a retired primary school caretaker, stands on April 9, 2018 by the nest with Malena, a white stork he adopted in 1993 after he found it at a nearby pond with a broken wing, shot by hunters, in the village of Brodska Varos in eastern Croatia. Malena the stork was adopted by Stjepan Vokic, a retired primary school caretaker, after hunters broke her wing 25 years ago. / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A photo taken on April 9, 2018 shows Klepetan, a male white stork which braves thousands of kilometers, year after year for the 16th time in a row, to join its female who cannot fly, in their nest in the village of Brodska Varos in eastern Croatia. Malena the stork was adopted by Stjepan Vokic, a retired primary school caretaker, after hunters broke her wing 25 years ago. / AFP PHOTO / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
BRODSKI VAROS, CROATIA - JUNE 20: Stork Klepetan stands near his nest and babies on June 20, 2016 in Brodski Varoä, Croatia. Stjepan Voki has been taking care of Malena since 22 years ago when an Italian hunter broke her wing and Klepetan has been coming back ever since even if he migrates alone every year on a 13,000 kilometers journey. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)
BRODSKI VAROS, CROATIA - JUNE 20: Malena keeps an eye on her stork chicks on June 20, 2016 in Brodski Varos, Croatia. Stjepan Voki has been taking care of Malena for 22 years, after an Italian hunter broke her wing and she hasn't flown since. Storks Malena and Klepetan have remained a couple for over 20 years, each spring Klepetan migrates 13,000 kilometers alone to be with Malena. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)
BRODSKI VAROS, CROATIA - JUNE 20: Stork Malena stands near her nest and babies on June 20, 2016 in Brodski Varoä, Croatia. Stjepan Voki has been taking care of Malena since 22 years ago when an Italian hunter broke her wing and Klepetan has been coming back ever since even if he migrates alone every year on a 13,000 kilometers journey. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)
BRODSKI VAROS, CROATIA - JUNE 20: Stork chicks are seen on the nest of Malena and Klepetan on June 20, 2016 in Brodski Varos, Croatia. Stjepan Voki has been taking care of Malena for 22 years, after a Italian hunter broke her wing and she hasn't flown since. Storks Malena and Klepetan have remained a couple for over 20 years, each spring Klepetan migrates 13,000 kilometers alone to be with Malena. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)
BRODSKI VAROS, CROATIA - JUNE 20: Stjepan Voki attends one of the Stork chicks of Malena and Klepetan on June 20, 2016 in Brodski Varo?, Croatia. Stjepan Voki has been taking care of Malena for 22 years, after a Italian hunter broke her wing and she hasn't flown since. Storks Malena and Klepetan have remained a couple for over 20 years, each spring Klepetan migrates 13,000 kilometers alone to be with Malena. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)
BRODSKI VAROS, CROATIA - JUNE 20: Stjepan Voki in front of the back of the school building where he keeps storks Malena and Klepetan on June 20, 2016 in Brodski Varos, Croatia. Stjepan Voki has been taking care of Malena for 22 years, after a Italian hunter broke her wing and she hasn't flown since. Storks Malena and Klepetan have remained a couple for over 20 years, each spring Klepetan migrates 13,000 kilometers alone to be with Malena. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)
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While storks don't always mate for life, they do tend to return to the same nests and mating partner, which explains Klepetan's loyalty.

Local man Stjepan Vokić, who's been caring for the storks since they first nested on the rooftop of his home, estimates the pair have now raised more than 40 baby storks and says they are inseparable during during their time together each year.

The pair is now so famous in Croatia there's even an animated short film depicting their incredible story.

Watch it below:

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